HC Deb 29 June 1992 vol 210 cc571-2
9. Miss Lestor

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received about the risks to passengers involved in the use of unlicensed cabs; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister for Public Transport (Mr. Roger Freeman)

Following representations about the safety of cab users in London, we set up a working party to investigate the subject. It has just delivered its report, which we are studying with interest. We have had no representations about unlicensed cabs outside London.

Miss Lestor

I thank the Minister for that reply. When he has had time to study the report, will be bear in mind the fact that the registration and checks kept on licensed black cabs, which have made the service probably one of the best in the world, do not apply to many other private services? As the use of the private sector is becoming so large, should there not be regulations to standardise the type of vehicle used and to ensure that there are the same checks on drivers and safety as apply to the licensed cab service?

Mr. Freeman

As the hon. Lady knows, in virtually every local authority outside London, private hire vehicles as well as black taxis have to be licensed. In London, vehicles that are not taxis are not licensed. We have set up a working party and, as I said, we are studying the recommendations carefully to see whether there is a case for introducing a greater degree of licensing in London.

Ms. Ruddock

Further to that reply, will the Minister acknowledge that there is a problem with licensed cab services outside London? Does he recall the recent case in which Rotherham magistates court and the Crown court overturned Sheffield city council's rejection of an application for a private hire licence from a man who had been convicted of assault and of drink-driving offences? There are people today driving licensed cabs who, in our view, should not be in charge of either a cab or passengers. When the Minister replied to my letter, he said that it was an "unusual decision" but declined to take further action. Will he reconsider those remarks to me? Will he take account of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust's current campaign on the issue, look at the matter afresh and make appropriate representations to his colleagues in the legal departments?

Mr. Freeman

I join the hon. Lady in paying tribute to the work of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. Both the hon. Lady and I have been to a number of functions sponsored by the trust. I agree that there are regrettable instances of some local authorities proceeding to license drivers when, on the face of it, they are not proceeding on a consistent basis with other local authorities. I undertake to study further the case that the hon. Lady cited, to raise the matter with colleagues in the Home Office and to write to the hon. Lady.

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